O.J. Howard Trade Rumors: Buccaneers Looking to Deal TE Ahead of NFL Draft

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2020

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (80) makes a catch against the Indianapolis Colts during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reportedly exploring a trade involving tight end O.J. Howard this offseason.

Michael Lombardi reported as much on his GM Shuffle podcast with Adnan Virk (h/t Greg Auman of The Athletic), saying, "I think Howard's got a great name, but I think there's an instinctive issue that's going on. And I think he's going to be available." 

Lombardi went as far as to say he wouldn't be surprised if the Alabama product was traded during the upcoming week.

Any trade involving Howard would only increase speculation that Rob Gronkowski would come out of retirement and play tight end alongside his former teammate Tom Brady. Brady and Gronkowski formed a nearly unstoppable duo for the New England Patriots and could write the final chapters of their careers together in the NFC South.

Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht was asked about that possibility and said of Gronkowski, "Well he's doing a pretty good job in Wrestlemania right now," per Jenna Laine of ESPN. "I have no idea if he'd want to play."

Some may have expected Howard to put up Gronkowski-like numbers when the Buccaneers used the No. 19 overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft on him following a successful collegiate career with the Crimson Tide.

Instead, he failed to reach the 600-yard mark in any of his first three seasons and caught a mere one touchdown in 14 games last year.

While Howard has shared targets at the tight end position with Cameron Brate, he is also part of an offense that features Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the outside and doesn't face nearly as much defensive attention as he would in other aerial attacks.

Brady is well-suited to find him over the middle if opposing secondaries are doubling Evans or Godwin on the outside, but the combination may never get the chance to play with each other if the Buccaneers trade him.

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